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Author: Jacques Stap

THE DISABILITY ROYAL COMMISSION

We do have to agree that there’s no getting around the fact that it has been a busy couple years for our sector. First, we had the NDIS and CoS roll out; then last year the Quality and Safeguards Commission comes along, and now we’ve got a Royal Commission! Although it may seem all quite stressful, it is easy to forget that we are living through some exciting and historic times for people living with a disability.

With all the changes happening in the sector, you may be forgiven for not being across all the details of the Disability Royal Commission.

The Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Disability Royal Commission) are to explore what should be done to:

• prevent, and better protect people living with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation
• achieve best practice in reporting and investigating of, and responding to violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation
• promote a more inclusive society that supports the independence of people living with disability and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

The scope of this Royal Commission is extensive, especially when you compare it to earlier inquiries.

The Hon Ronald Sackville AO QC is the Chair of the Royal Commission. Ronald is a former judge at the Federal Court of Australia and has led many public inquiries before this one. He will be supported by:

• Ms Barbara Bennett PSM. Barbara has 20 years’ experience in senior roles the public service, including at the Department of Social Services and the Department of Human Services. Her mother and daughter both live with disabilities.
• Dr Rhonda Galbally AC. Rhonda has worked in disability rights and policy for decades. She developed the National Disability and Carer Alliance. Rhonda was a board member of the NDIA and Principal Member of the Independent Advisory Council to the NDIA. Rhonda lives with a disability.
• Ms Andrea Mason OAM. Andrea is a Ngaanyatjarra and Kronie Australian woman from Western Australia. She has worked in Indigenous Affairs in a variety of roles, including as CEO of Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY)’s Women’s Council.
• Alastair McEwin AM. In his most recent role, Alastair served as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner. He was also involved in the drafting in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (UN CRPD). Alastair has lived with a disability since birth.
• The Hon John Ryan AM. John is a former NSW state parliamentarian and served as the Shadow Minister for Disability Services. He has held various senior positions in the NSW public service, including at the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS).

The Royal Commission will be based in Brisbane, but there will be hearings across the country. It has already started collecting evidence through submissions and community forums. We can expect an interim report no later than 30 October 2020, and a final report by no later than 29 April 2022.

The Disability Royal Commission is currently accepting submissions, which can be made by phone, email, or form. Submissions are the main opportunity providers and people with disability will have share their experiences with the Royal Commission. The Commission will provide accessibility support to enable people living with a disability and their families to make a submission.

People will also be given an opportunity to make confidential submissions.
The Royal Commission will also be running community forums around the country. Times and locations will be announced shortly on the inquiry’s website.

The Royal Commission will hold public hearings. They give the Commissioners the opportunity to question and cross examine people giving evidence. Just a note that Royal Commissions have the authority to summon witnesses.

Recommendations from the Disability Royal Commission can inform how the Quality and Safeguards Commission conducts its work. It is also worth remembering that the NDIS only provides support for 10% of Australians with disability. In contrast, the Disability Royal Commission will explore violence, abuse, neglect, and or exploitation against all people with disability.

The most common function of a Royal Commission is to make policy recommendations to the government. The government can choose whether they implement these recommendations. Royal Commissions are not able to institute compensation for victims, but they can recommend that the government sets up a victim compensation fund. The Royal Commission has also the power to refer matters to the police for further criminal investigation and prosecution, if necessary.

The Disability Royal Commission is going to be a difficult and triggering time for many people. There is no doubt that it will unearth some deeply disturbing stories that will stir difficult memories. But the experience of giving evidence for the purpose of creating change can be very empowering for people who have undergone trauma, if they are given the right support.

CEO’S SECTOR UPDATE – DECEMBER 2018

The NDIA recently released its Annual Report for 2017-18. This report definitely put a positive spin on achievements and there is always more than a little bit of data burying. Nevertheless, the data they provide gives a vital insight into how the Scheme is actually performing.

THE FEEL-GOOD STATS
It is easy to get caught up in what is going wrong with the NDIS and the magnitude of the problems we face. No statistic should be used to dismiss the real stress and grief that the Scheme has caused many people with disability and their families. But it is also important, for our own sanity, to remember that there are also some things that are going right. Here are some examples for the annual outcomes’ framework questionnaire:
• 91% of parents of children between 0-6 believe the NDIS has helped their child’s development.
• 82% of parents of children between 0-6 believe it has increased their child’s ability to communicate their needs.
• 69% of parents of children between 7-14 believe the NDIS had improved their child’s ability to develop and learn. It is interesting to note the difference between this and the 0-6 aged group. This makes a strong case for early intervention.
• 71% of Participants over 25 said the NDIS had helped them with activities of daily living.

NON-BLOWOUT
Just a timely reminder that the ‘NDIS blowouts’, which we keep hearing about in the press is completely fake news. This year the Scheme came in under budget, as it has every other year since its inception. Moreover, projections show that it is likely to remain within the Productivity Commission’s estimates in the coming years.

INDEPENDENT PRICING REVIEW
The review report includes interesting information about the impact that the recommendations from the Independent Pricing Review (IPR) have had on providers. Apparently, changes implemented so far have improved providers’ margins by 2-4%. Margins are even higher in rural areas, and for providers working with people with complex support needs. infrastructure.

– Jacques Stap
Chief Executive Officer

CEO’S SECTOR UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2018

As of late June 2018, all of New Haven Farm Home’s clients participating in the NDIS, have a current plan.

Varying from last year’s NDIS plans, the Supported Independent Living (SIL) budget for each of our clients has been reduced. However, many clients have received a community participation budget, which compliments their SIL budget.

Community participation funds can only be used where the client has an identified community participation activity, which is set out in a program and where the client is supported by our staff. Each client has a person specific budget, which is related to their support needs.

As I mentioned in our last newsletter, there have been a number of issues regarding the payment of outstanding NDIS invoices. In March 2018 the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) set up a National Provider Payments Team to assist Service Providers in finalising outstanding invoices. This team will expand its function to increase engagement with the provider sector to understand its business needs.

From October 2018, changes to the NDIS participant pathway will be implemented across Australia. The revised pathway will include the offer of face-to-face planning meetings to all participants and an increased focus on pre-planning and post-plan implementation.
The Government has announced additional staff for the NDIA to deliver this, entailing:
• an additional 750 staff over the next 12 months and training of all planners and front-line staff;
• an increase to the NDIA’s staffing cap (to 3,138 this year; 3,230 next year; and 3,400 thereafter); and
• amendments to the NDIS Act to increase the number of NDIA staff members who can make access decisions and approve plans.
The Government has been subject to criticism for maintaining a tight staff cap on the NDIA at a time when the NDIA needs to lift its capacity and capability. Raising the staff cap, however, is only part of the solution; there is considerable experience and expertise in the non-government disability services sector on which the Agency should draw to improve the quality of planning.

Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme is undertaking two new inquiries, one into ICT infrastructure and the other into the provision of assistive technology.
We are pleased that the Committee is investigating the poorly-performing ICT infrastructure.

– Jacques Stap
Chief Executive Officer

CEO SECTOR UPDATE – AUTUMN 2018

New Haven Farm

Over the last year the NDIA made a number of changes to participants’ NDIS plans. The most significant change was the need to include a Supported Independent Living (SIL) price quotation in each NDIS participants’ package, impacting their budgets. In addition to this, the NDIA decided to allocate a budget for community inclusion activities.

The implementation of these changes took 6-8 months, which affected all clients supported by an NDIS plan as they did not have a full plan for more than half a year.

In September the NDIA made a determination that these participants would receive an interim plan. However, this would only be for 13 weeks. Many of our clients did not have an approved plan until late February or early March, causing significant cash flow issues.

Nevertheless, as many disability support providers were in the same predicament, our industry representative body, NDS, took up the baton and worked with the NDIA and individual organisations, to resolve this financial impediment. There are some clients still without a NDIS plan and we are working hard with the NDIA to resolve this backlog.

In spite of this situation we have been able to maintain support levels to our clients at the required standards. I would like to thank the Board for their prudency and excellent financial stewardship.

As New Haven Farm Home is a Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) provider we would like to have our SDA status acknowledged in each individual NDIS plan. This is not currently the case, and we are still working with the NDIA to resolve a number of outstanding matters regarding SDA payments. We believe that those clients with physical and/or sensory disabilities would require SDA and as a result of this it should be a line item in their NDIS plan. Although we have not been provided with a rationale for the NDIA’s decisions in these matters, we are waiting for an outcome in the next few months.

Those clients who are 65 years old and over are funded by the Continuity of Services by the Commonwealth Department of Health. Currently all clients are fully funded, and services have not been affected. This funding will be reviewed next year.

– Jacques Stap
New Haven Farm Home CEO